Eighty-six and counting!
Marie Frey has as many grandchildren as years: the 86-year-old just welcomed her 86th biological great-grandchild, her grandson, Kenny Frey, tells PEOPLE. Kenny and wife Holly’s fifth daughter, Blakely Grace, was born June 23, at 7 lbs., 5 oz.
Marie had 15 children with her late husband Gerald. Those 15 children led to 68 grandchildren and six step-grandchildren – which includes two sets of twins. In addition to 86 biological great-grandchildren, Marie also has nine step-great-grandchildren. She’ll be a great-grandmother twice more this year: number 87 is due in August, and 88 later this winter.
“I look around, I think we’re lucky,” Marie tells PEOPLE of her large brood.
An Ohio native, Marie was born in Seneca County and now lives in Upper Sandusky. Raising 15 kids, she admits, had its “ups and downs” and was “sometimes chaotic.” Even if they squabbled, Marie says, the kids would eventually figure it out. “None of them ever stayed angry at each other… they’re all close.”
Marie says she stayed home during her children’s early years, before balancing parenthood with working at the family’s roofing and lumber business in Kirby – where Kenny now works with his father.
Ninety percent of the family is in Ohio, Kenny – of nearby Forest – says, with all 15 of Marie’s kids still in the same county. In fact, some of her children live just down the block. That makes big family get-togethers a frequent thing – and Marie always hosts.
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“They all bring so much food – and they’re all pretty good cooks,” Marie says of their traditional, large, holiday celebrations, before revealing her own affinity for pie-making.
While Marie says she’s not expected to attend band concerts and little league match-ups, she tries to make it to at least one of each of her nearby great-grandchildren’s games throughout the year, and says that she’s frequently at children’s birthday parties. “I keep busy,” she admits.
And keeping the dozens of kids straight isn’t even a challenge for the octogenarian: Marie says she knows all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s names. “When they all get together, they have lots of fun,” Marie tells PEOPLE.
Kenny – who calls says their oversized brood “just normal” – says his grandmother’s kindness extends beyond the Frey family, as well. “She goes out of her way to all the extended family… neighbors and friends,” he says, noting that she has a multitude of close friends. “She has been instrumental in a lot of peoples’ lives.”
He adds, “She’s a very strong woman. Faith and family are important to her.”
The greatest gift of being a Frey? Support, Kenny says. “Basically anytime you go anywhere, you know everybody.”